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Published March 28th 2012

How To Listen Intelligently & Act Upon It

Listening, monitoring, researching, tracking: there are so many buzz words in social media monitoring that generating useful and effective benefits via listening to the social web can often elude companies.

As Zach Hofer-Shall talked about last week, there is a worrying void between listening and intelligence evident in many companies, meaning monitoring and action can often be miles apart.

Listening is of course the first stage to social media monitoring, but it’s what comes after that makes it all worthwhile. It’s been suggested that companies have been chasing followers and likes without much thought into why these metrics are useful.

There are plenty of valuable ways of acting upon social listening. We’ve outlined how to use it for customer service in our eBook on the topic, and how to use it for research too.

Companies certainly are listening, but whether what they listen to is worth anything is another matter.

Basic Listening Metrics

Agencies such as Social Bakers provide measurable statistics on various social media performance indicators, including:

Conversation rate/engagement rate: the amount of interaction with a social media profile or page. This is usually measured by determining the percentage of users that engage with the page out of the total number of followers or fans.

Amplification rate: determined by a mix of amplification metrics, including factors such as retweets and shares.

Applause rate: the number of likes and plus ones will contribute to generating this score for many companies.

Economic value, most commonly a form of ROI: the most frequently used measurement for businesses using social media. This can be recorded through leads, sales, conversions, subscriptions; generally quantifiable end-product goals achieved.

These metrics are useful for tracking the success of campaigns and monitoring the company’s social media presence. However, it’s not listening, it’s hearing.

More Insightful Metrics

One of the troubles with using these metrics is that it doesn’t inform any strategy. It certainly makes it difficult to tie together listening and action.

Using social media monitoring tools, other, more interesting, listening activities can take place. Simply comparing the volume of mentions between brands or key terms can prove insightful.

If Ben & Jerry’s receives three times the volume of mentions on social media sites than Haagen Dasz, what does this tell each company?

There are countless other data that can reveal interesting nuggets about your brand, such as the sentiment of each mention, as well as the location, influence, mozRank, site-type spread and other information about the coverage of your brand.

Intelligent Listening

So we’ve had a quick discussion of the main ways to listen online, but what about actually intelligently finding insight in all that noise?

It’s very difficult to discover how these basic metrics gained from listening actually help brands act upon them, so it’s worth listening a bit more intelligently to the social web to truly understand how future decisions and actions can be taken.

If you take a look at Carlsberg (a beer company) and their online social media coverage, trends can be observed and the data can be understood.

Alongside two competitors, Carlsberg shares a similar volume of mentions online. Immediately evident in ‘listening’ to this data is the spike in volume around the 26th of February.

Diving into this data, evaluating the individual mentions and using features in SMM tools like Brandwatch such as topics, it soon becomes apparent that the huge surge in mentions relates to the Carling Cup final.

It would appear that Carlsberg’s sponsorship of Liverpool football club manifests in a measurable rise in people drinking Carlsberg, or at least discussing drinking it. Other peaks correlate whenever there are games that Liverpool play in, even when sponsorship-related mentions are accounted for and the search is modified to look exclusively for mentions of people drinking or enjoying Carlsberg in some way (unrelated to football directly).

Have Carlsberg taken this into account with their marketing strategies? It’s likely, if you look at their TV spots and their Facebook page.

Their branding in social media is clearly focused around football, as they have understood that their market is engaged with the brand around the sport. This is further verified by topic clouds that feature footballing terms, as well as type of news/blog coverage and other data analysis.

A brief look at recent mentions of Carlsberg shows that they are associated with football through coverage of the brand on news sites, which sees a significant minority of the sites actually about footballing news, rather than other news.

This analysis could go on further, and in much greater detail, discussing competitors, mention demographics and all sorts of other potential insights. However, this eaxmple merely serves to detail how intelligent listening can reinforce existing ideas about marketing, contrast incorrect assumptions and ultimately inform future marketing and business strategies.

There is a plethora of actions that brands like Carlsberg can take in the wake of intelligent listening, as detailed before on our blog, and in our series of eBooks.

Most of companies failing to take action aren’t suffering from a lack of options in terms of technology available, they are simply not taking the steps to a) listen intelligently and b) act upon the insights gained from that.

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